Almost 1,500 people live in the small town of Bangor. Five-hundred-seventy-eight of them attend Bangor Public Schools.
“It's the glue that holds small towns together,” said Bangor School District Superintendent Dave Laehn.
School pride is important to a district that is working to keep its students from leaving its schools during the annual spring open enrollment period.
“Historically, we've been negative in; that we've had more students go out than come in,” said Laehn.
When students walk out the doors of their school, the money given to a district by the state goes with them.
“It has an impact budget-wise,” said Laehn. “But it also can have an impact on programming.”
“This is the trend since 1998,” said Onalaska School District Superintendent Fran Finco.
Open enrollment has had a different impact on the Onalaska School District.
“It just exploded the last five years,” said Finco. “It just exploded.”
Onalaska has gained students through open enrollment since the program began 16 years ago. And for Onalaska, more money coming in has had a direct impact on the amount of money asked for in school operating referendums.
“Think about this: when you get almost $900,000 from other districts to educate the kids in this school district, that's money that doesn't have to come from local tax payers,” said Finco.
“We're obviously hoping, in this coming school year, to make it a positive number,” said Laehn.
Bangor has not had to cut programs. And the negative-number trend is changing as more students are choosing to fill these classrooms.
“That would be big for us,” said Laehn. “And something we could really build on.”
Because the superintendent says the district has positive programs to offer kids.
“We want to tell our story that there still is a place for small schools,” said Laehn, “and it can offer lots of things that are attractive to families and students.”
Which helps drive the sense of pride in this small town.